Post UFC 95 Notes – Free Is A Good Price

By Nicholas Bailey (nwbailey@mmaratings.net)

As the UFC begins to wind down its separation of the wheat from the proverbial chaff, we are seeing higher talent fighters in preliminary fights, which paid off in spades here. If the UFC is going to maintain its own self-contained developmental league, then it’ll be good to see it stocked with the likes of Terry Etim and Jon Jones instead of TUF castoffs.

Speaking of payoffs, my official picks produced a gain of +1.94units here, not a bad result at all, especially considering I avoided the Koscheck debacle and a surprisingly close fight between Sanchez and Stevenson. The MMA Ratings betting juggernaut rolls ever on!

This event caps off the most heavily scheduled period in UFC history, with events being much more spaced out for the next couple of months. While it’s always good to have more MMA, recent events really require more digestion than has been allowed. Are we really ready for Mir to have knocked out Nogueira, Brock Lesnar to be champion, and Forrest Griffin and Rashad Evans to have met in a title fight? I think it’s time we all sat back and looked at what’s happened with the sport in the last several months, starting with the fights from UFC 95.

Diego Sanchez defeated Joe Stevenson via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

Diego went down in weight in order to have a strength advantage, be the bully, and otherwise make up for his problems with his wrestling, which usually depends on just physically overwhelming his opponent. Unfortunately for Diego, he cut down in weight by losing muscle and seemed evenly matched with Joe, who was physically dominated by BJ Penn and Kenny Florian.

Forget the fact that Stevenson didn’t try to knee or kick with his stumpy little legs. Diego was punching better, more cleanly, longer, and in greater volume. Diego really pushed a hard pace and threw every punch with bad intentions, so it’s clear that he still has the cardio, if not the strength. This fight was also the most I’ve ever seen Diego move backwards, which may be why Joe seemed to think he’d won the fight, being very pumped up and excited at the conclusion. Someone in his corner should have told him the plain truth and had him adjust his game.

It’s too bad we didn’t get to see more scrambles in this fight, since that’s where both guys are brilliant, as we saw in a few glorious moments in the second round. It seems that Diego will fit into the same slot at 155 that he did at 170. A talented, aggressive pressure fighter that doesn’t have the wrestling or physical dominance to always take advantage of his great top game and ground and pound. He’ll beat Joe Stevenson, but he will have a very hard time stringing together enough wins to get a title shot unless it’s gift-wrapped for him, since tough fighters like Gleison Tibau are very real threats to beat Diego before he even gets matched up against the top five fighters in the division.

At this point, despite his improved boxing, it looks like Stevenson has come to the end of his growth as a fighter. It’s going to take a serious breaking-down and rebuilding from the ground up for him to correct his problems, since he continues to make the same mistakes and fight the same way fight after fight.

Dan Hardy defeated Rory Markham via KO (punch) at 1:09 of round 1

Some might say Dan Hardy is taking the whole “human cockfighting” thing a little too literally with his rooster mohawk, but I love it. From the opening bell Markham was looking to throw big strikes, even if it meant leaving himself open, whereas Hardy was looking to avoid being hit by big strikes, not leaving himself open, circling away, and moving his head. In the end, that played out about like you’d expect. Hardy is a seriously talented counterpuncher and most of the guys in the division should make sure they’re not sleeping on him. A bout with Chris Lytle might be a little much for Hardy right now, but it would sure be entertaining.

As long as Markham keeps fighting that way he’s just going to keep producing impressive KO’s. The only problem for him is that some of the time he’ll be the one hitting the canvas.

Nate Marquardt defeated Wilson Gouveia via TKO (strikes) at 3:10 of round 3

Extremely impressing performance from both men, possibly the best of each man’s career. This fight had the most talent involved out of any on the card.

Gouveia may have gotten his wig split in the end, but he really answered a lot of questions with regards to his heart and gas. He lost rounds 1 and 2, nearly got finished in the second, and came out for the third ready to try to turn it around. That’s something not a lot of fighters, even top fighters, can do, and it shows Wilson has a lot more guts and fire in his belly than I’d previously given him credit for. Although he lost almost every minute of the fight, he was never out of the fight, with serious threats to finish in each round. Marquardt was just the better, stronger man. If Gouveia can get in that kind of shape again and fight that hard, he’s going to continue to murder fighters like Jason Lambert and Jason MacDonald. He’s just going to have to make sure his mental game is always on point, so he doesn’t end up in another mess like he had with Goran Reljic, who was useless on the ground but was able to outstrike a Wilson Gouveia that continually let him back up to the feet.

Marquardt looked phenomenal, displaying the dynamic, versatile, and improvisational game that’s becoming the hallmark of Greg Jackson’s fighters. He looked gassed in the third, possibly from staying tense and working too hard on offense in a fight he was clearly winning, and he will wake up in the hospital if he feels tired against Anderson Silva. Marquardt has no real weaknesses at this point, so the only way I can see him legitimately losing in the near future is to someone that can dominate even a very talented fighter, such as a Demian Maia, or Anderson Silva. If you’re not the best in the world at something, then the only way to beat Marquardt is to throw incredibly hard punches and hope one puts him out. Gouveia is usually very good at that, but failed to make it happen, with Thales Leites coming closer. I’d be very interested to see Marquardt vs. any of the elite 185lbers, and I think he’d be a slight favorite over Henderson, Franklin, and Okami. If Demian Maia is unfortunate enough to get put against Nate, we could see the beautiful return of pure jiu-jitsu to prizefighting brought to a very violent end.

Demian Maia defeated Chael Sonnen via submission (triangle choke) at 2:37 of round 1

It’s pretty funny to see Wanderlei Silva clapping and cheering when someone says “I wantd to show you can win the fight without hurting your opponent.”

As far as the actual fight goes, Maia showed that he isn’t completely lost on the feet, tagging Sonnen a little bit (enough to put him on the back foot and set up that beautiful takedown) although I doubt he’ll win any fights there anytime soon. Maia’s skills on the ground are no secret at this point. In a couple more fights Dana white will be able to release a jiu-jitsu instructional using nothing but Maia’s in-ring footage. The guy’s game is so basic, yet so perfect, that it looks like his opponent is helping him practice a drill.

Sonnen is a tough guy with a good mouth, so he will stay in the UFC for a while longer, and beat up lower-tier guys. But unless he can get better sub defense or develop more dangerous striking, he’s going to hit a very hard ceiling in a stacked 185lb division.

Paulo Thiago defeated Josh Koscheck via KO (uppercut) at 3:29 of round 1

How typical for this crazy sport. Paulo Thiago was the biggest underdog of the night yet through a combination of luck, skill, and poor reffing, he was able to emerge the victor. As for the reffing, compare that stoppage to the times Koscheck was dropped by Thiago Alves, and then read Jordan Breen’s piece on ‘intelligent defense’, and that’s basically all there is to say about the stoppage.

Koscheck’s standup looked good but predictable. He was throwing big homerun shots from the outset and barely setting them up, as well as robbing himself of much-needed length on his punches by throwing fastballs. On the plus side, that was the first time I’ve seen him throw a head kick without falling over. Back to the bottom of the pile for the Kosman, and Thiago will now get matched way above his pay grade since he has such a quality win under his belt. With the mechanical problems he showed against Koscheck, it won’t be long before Thiago will get the knockout Koscheck had planned on giving him. Thiago wasn’t exactly on a gold-plated contract for this fight, so I cannot complain too loudly about the undeserved knockout of the night bonus, but I’m sure Dan Hardy would have appreciated it (although nothing was as impressive as Nate Marquardt’s crazy kung-fu flurry of doom.

Terry Etim defeated Brian Cobb via TKO (strikes) at 0:10 of round 2

Stefan Struve could learn a lot from Terry Etim, who makes the most of his length. Employing a versatile kicking game, coupled with excellently timed straight punching and footwork, he tore Cobb apart, in a manner that definitely merited the Anderson Silva comparison, although he’s obviously not at that level of talent yet. One notable feature of this fight was the very short amount of time given before each standup. On paper this seems like shoddy or uneven refereeing, but the fact is that Cobb was doing absolutely nothing, not even fighting the expert lock-down-and-stall game Etim played off his back, which could have drawn comparisons to Wanderlei Silva.

Cobb took this fight on very short notice and Etim made it look like a fight Cobb should not take under any circumstances. Etim, with his reach and striking skills, is a very interesting addition to a division that currently doesn’t have a lot of really good strikers. Now if only he could learn to speak english.

Junior dos Santos defeated Stefan Struve via TKO (strikes) at 0:54 of round 1

It’s always pretty amazing when you see one of the really gigantic guys collapse like that. Junior dos Santos is a heavy puncher, considering most of those shots were partially blocked or just clubbing shots. That’s great, but most of the guys at heavyweight can slug. I want to see what kind of chin he’s got, and how well he does off his back. I’m sure he trains his jiu-jitsu diligently, and certainly with top guys at the Nogueira team, but I can’t help but think of Edson Draggo when I think of Nogueira training partners with heavy hands. In any case Junior has real potential, great physical gifts, and the division is wide open for that kind of guy.

Struve simply needs to clean up his striking and use his reach. He has a slick ground game, so he shouldn’t worry about getting taken down, so he should be able to just work strikes, and training in Holland maybe be a good excuse for being a crappy wrestler, but it’s no reason not to have good striking. The kid is only 21, so if he can get some more training and experience, he could go far. He was obviously just way in over his head in this fight.

Evan Dunham defeated Per Eklund via KO (strikes) at 2:14 of round 1

I didn’t break this fight down because I was only passingly familiar with either of the fighters, and neither is very good. Dunham won nicely, but he ate a good number of shots from a sub-par striker in Eklund. He’ll probably be the guy collapsing to the mat in his next fight. Eklund is a solid fighter, but he honestly isn’t UFC material right now, and it’s doubtful if he ever will be. That said, the guy is a cut above 99% of the fighters out there, so he could be a hero for local promotions wherever he wanted.

Mike Ciesnolevicz defeated Neil Grove via submission (heel hook) at 1:03 of round 1

If you’re a giant slugger with a pronounced size advantage that has just used said size to avoid being taken down by a superior wrestler and grappler, what should you do? If you answered “attempt to figure out how to perform a leglock” then congratulations! You’re out of the UFC.

What Do You Think of This Fight/Event?